This morning my brother Doug picked us up and drove us to Chicago airport and we flew to Boston, where my Uncle Rich & Aunt Deirdre are hosting us while we meet a doctor here. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is located here and seems to be at the forefront of research in my particular type of tumor. So tomorrow at 1 we meet with Dr Nayak. We hope to learn a lot more about the various chemotherapy options and what she suggests as far as a treatment plan either in conjuction with or after radiation. I'll have to say that at this point we seem to have lots more questions than answers, but we've found in the past as we ask questions and learn more, God seems to sort of clear the way and give us peace and direction on which path to pursue. We pray that we can feel that tomorrow. The travel on the airplane went pretty well. The only problem was I had my bad ear to Leann/Doug so it was a bit hard to hear but the trip went really smooth. There are a few times I get neck/back spasms at times but in general I'm decently comfortable.
I’ve had the burden on my heart the last week to just try and put down in simple explanation what I believe about God, who He is, who I am, and the basics of His Plan of Salvation. Many of you reading this know me well, and are members in the Apostolic Christian Church like me, so we’ve been operating from the same foundational understanding. But I also realize there are many co-workers and extended friends and family reading who may not be familiar with my beliefs. So I write this not to be preachy, but just to make sure that the truth is explained to anyone who may be wondering of how my faith can be like this, or how we can have such hope in God. This is not written for theological analysis, but just to write in plain language the basics and get it across.
I believe in a creator, God, who created the whole universe including earth, heavens, animals, and mankind. He is all knowing, all powerful, all seeing and capable of anything.
What is God’s nature? Above all He is Holy. God is both righteous and loving. He will be both uncompromising in his judgment and unhesitating in his forgiveness. He is the perfect Father. He wants nothing more than what is best for us as His creation. But we will never talk him into dealing with us on our terms. I believe His greatest joy is when he sees us as mankind trying to serve him with all our heart. God has given us instruction in the Holy Bible, which we read and strive to follow in all our life’s actions.
All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Our natural attitude is inclined to be in opposition to God, although we were put on earth in order to serve God. We are nothing without Him in our lives, but with Him we can accomplish much. When I try to summarize the meaning of life, Ecclesiastes 12:13 does it best “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
Sin & Forgiveness
God’s original plan was that man would live in perfectness with him in the garden, but through the temptation and sin of Adam & Eve, sin entered into the world. Sin is any disobedience against God, anything that separates us from Him. At the end of our life, we will be judged and will spend eternity in one of two places, the eternal punishment of hell, or the eternal bliss of heaven. For many years (through old testament times) man’s method of atoning for his sin was through the shedding of animal blood in sacrifice. In New Testament times God saw fit to institute a more perfect plan whereby each of us can have forgiveness of our sins and a close relationship with Him. God sent his perfect and only son, Jesus Christ to earth. Christ lived a perfect life here on earth, and then was crucified on the cross. On the third day after his death, he arose from the grave, showing his ultimate power over Satan and death. Christ’s blood was perfect, and when we have faith in His shed blood, this perfect blood pays the price for our sins in the eyes of God. Jesus Christ is the only way for us to get back into fellowship with our father and spend eternity with him in heaven. St John chapter 3, verses 1-21 are probably the best explanation of this, summed up in verse 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Faith & Belief
So in order to be saved from our sins, we must have a saving faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” This has been one of my favorite verses my entire Christian life, and I hope you can see the peace and contentedness in our lives even as we face this situation.
There is a difference between a true saving faith or belief and the simple head knowledge that something is true. When we speak of believing in Jesus Christ, we are talking about the deep belief. John 3:3 “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Belief is a whole life change, a radical conversion, our spirit is born-again. St John 14:21 “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” And then action and obedience to God’s commands are required as we live our lives.
Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Once we have this new belief in Christ, the fruits of repentance will immediately show in our lives. What is repentance? It is sorrow towards God as we reflect upon the past sins of our life. We make the effort to achieve reconciliation with those we have wronged (sinned against) in our un-converted life. We are sorry for the sins of our past life, and our attitude is one of great humility and unworthiness as we consider ourself in the light of God and who He is and what He has done for us.
Our repentance culminates as we are baptized as an outward sign of our belief in God.
Along with our repentance, God works a conversion in our heart through the Holy Spirit, so we are now able to put off the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) and put on the works of the spirit (Galations 5:22-23).
We strive to live a holy life, one that pleases God in all things. Not that we are earning our way to heaven but because we love God so much and it’s what His Holy Word instructs. It’s not a casual way of life we take lightly, it’s the center of all other aspects of our lives.
Faithful to the end
Once we have experienced the work of God’s salvation in our heart, we must still battle on each day in order to enter heaven’s gates at the end of our life. God promises his grace and it is only through his grace each day that we can continue to walk the Christian life with him. Satan would love nothing better than to discourage us and deter us from our faith.
Mark 13:13 “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
Revelation 3:21 “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
I don’t stand in fear or worry of entering heaven’s gates. I have a deep peace and confidence in God. But yet I know my race is not ended yet and Satan will still surely try to attack me and get me to give up and turn my back on God. He would love nothing more. So I must press onward, faithful to the end, the same as you who seem to have much more time than I. God has promised to give us this grace that we can stay faithful to the end.
My heart’s wish
My earnest prayer is that in some way God can use the experiences I am going through to benefit each one of your lives. If you have been converted for some time, I pray that God can help you reflect on your life in a way to be sure you are living as devoted to Him as possible each day. If you are yet to experience the salvation and goodness of God, I pray he can work in your heart through this and bring you to a believing faith. I’ll be glad to answer any questions I can, but there are many friends and family around you who can help as well. Let us have humble hearts, and let God work in each one of us in a way that brings praise to His name through this.
So I hope that helps explain how it can seem unreal that we can have joy and peace while facing death. It comes from understanding who I am relative to God, and where I fit in His plan, and trusting the reasons for everything to him. Sure, I am sad, I cry often, I'll miss my wife and kids if he takes me home "soon". But I have hope of an eternal home. And if He decides to heal and I'm granted years on this earth, I'll gladly serve Him each day.
Derek & Leann